Hurry to Your Shelter

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There’s a storm coming. It was a bright, blue-sky day, with brilliant sunshine and just enough random cloud cover to bring a spot of relief now and then. And all of a sudden darkness rolls in and takes over, chasing the light away.

As this raging storm raced across the sky, bringing strong winds, bolts of lightning, and pelting rain, I got away from it as quickly as I could.

“I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.” Psalm 55:8.

When a storm comes upon us, what should we do? Where do we go? The psalmist gives us wisdom here, advising that he would hurry to his place of shelter, far away from the storm. Where is his shelter? It’s the Presence of the Almighty God.

When storms come into your life, what do you do? Do you try to get through them on your own? Do you think you can stand against the tempest on your own strength?

Just like I hurried to a place of shelter and refuge as this storm arrived, even more do I want to rush to the safety of my God when the storms of life come upon me. It’s not the time to abandon the faith that has anchored me so many times. Run to the safety of your God.

Unfailing Love and Full Redemption

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She’s a month old today, and all I have are memories. Well, that’s not all. I still pray for her everyday, and perhaps I can impact her life through that.

I thought about it all week. How would I feel on this day? Knowing that this is the first of many 5th days of the month that will come and go? Actually, I’m better than I thought I’d be. Yesterday was a little rough, but today I’m better.

God is a wonderful healer. Somehow He takes the darkest of circumstances and brings hope to them. Somehow He brings redemption to the most painful and impossible situations. I really don’t know what I would do without Him in my life.

“Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption.” Psalm 130:7.

I’ve never known a more tested and proven truth. There’s the hope of the world, and then there’s the hope in the Lord. And there’s a big difference.

When we hope for something, it usually implies we desire something that might work out – or it might not. But when we hope in the LORD, our hope is based on certainty – that He will bring about the absolute greatest outcome to our situation. That doesn’t mean we always get what we want. What it does mean is we get God’s best – His unfailing love and full redemption. And that’s always better than anything we could dream up.

I will miss her for the rest of my life, and I’ll never be the same again. But deep in my heart, I know this will end good. I don’t know how. I just know.

Live as People Who Are Free

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We came upon this stunning sight on the morning of September 11, 2017 while traveling through the beautiful little Lake Michigan town of Charlevoix. The flag, flying at half-mast, stood beautifully and solemnly against the backdrop of clear blue sky and water, with the lovely red Charlevoix South Pier Light Station in the distance. It was a strangely quiet morning, as if all creation knew what a solemn anniversary was being recognized that day.

Freedom. What lengths have been gone to to attain it. What sacrifices have been made to maintain it. How many lives have been given so that other lives may enjoy it and benefit from it? And yet, do we really know what freedom is?

“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” 1 Peter 2:16.

The source of all freedom is God and all freedom originates from Him. True freedom comes from knowing Christ, and though one may live in a free country, he/she cannot truly experience freedom apart from a relationship with Him.

This Christian freedom displays itself, not in license to do whatever we please, but in willing obedience to legitimate authorities, which are ordained by God. We are free to live lives that honor God, bring dignity to others, and respect our leaders and the laws of our land. The freedom Christ gives means freedom from sin and from that which would destroy us and those we love. It also means we are free to live the abundant lives God intends us to live.

Today, I am thankful to God to live in a free nation, but I’m more thankful to Him for the authentic freedom He has provided through Christ.

I’ll Walk in Freedom

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Before the Emancipation Proclamation was even signed, before the Civil War was close to being over, before there was any such thing as former slaves governing themselves, there was Mitchelville. A group of escaped slaves created this town, on a former plantation on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, with the help of Union General Ormsby Mitchell.

This was not merely an encampment, but a true town, with simply designed streets, wooden homes, and a church. Not only was there a sense of community within this simple infrastructure, but there was also opportunity – the opportunity for these individuals to experience freedom and govern themselves.

Therefore these citizens held elections, developed laws, paid taxes, made a living, and made decisions that best suited themselves and their families. It is even believed that the first compulsory education law for children in South Carolina was passed here.

Today, Mitchelville Freedom Park, along this beautiful shoreline, exists to commemorate these individuals who bravely stepped into freedom in spite of the challenges they faced.

“I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.” Psalm 119:45.

Freedom is more than a right or privilege we deem to others or earn ourselves. It’s a gift from God. But true freedom doesn’t come from any government. It’s not granted by a more powerful entity or individual to a less powerful one. It comes from God Himself and is found by obedience to His instructions.

The original language of this verse connotes a “wide, open space.” In other words, as we obey God, we do not feel constrained, as some may think. Instead, we feel great liberty – liberty to live in a way that is honoring to God and pleasing to us. There is no greater freedom.

The Builder of a House

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The White House Ruins, in Canyon de Chelly National Monument, are the remains of ancient Puebloan villages. The ruins, built into a sheer 500 foot sandstone cliff and accessible by a two and a half mile hike, were constructed and occupied between 1060 A.D. and 1275 A.D. The White House ruins are named for the white plaster used to coat the long back wall in the upper dwelling.

It’s an awesome experience to see such a place in person, gaze up to the heights, and imagine what it must have been like to live here. And as amazing as these dwellings are, those who had the intellect and engineering talent must have been far more amazing.

“Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself.” Hebrews 3:3.

So many through history have looked at Moses, and esteemed him highly. After all, God had given Moses a great task. God led him to deliver His people Israel, deliver His mind and will to them, and govern them. God worked miracles through Moses, met with him at the burning bush and on the mountain where He gave the Ten Commandments, and God actually buried Moses with tender care.

Yet Scripture here is reminding us that Christ is far superior to Moses. He is the Author of our salvation. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is Creator of the world. As we live in the abundance of His creation and marvel at it, we must remember that as wonderful as it is, it can’t begin to compare with the One who is the Source of it all. And we must give the Builder higher honor and esteem than that which He has built.

What Light Reveals

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Light has a way of revealing truth unlike anything else. When light shines upon something, you see everything that’s good and everything that’s bad about what it is shining on. That’s true when the bright morning sun shines through my windows. I see dust and dirt that I can’t see any other time.

It’s true here in this photo, as we watched the brilliant sun rise over the Snake Valley. We saw complete beauty, as well as little details and nuances in the light that went unseen in the darkness.

“But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” John 3:21.

As children of God, we need to allow His light to shine upon our lives, so that we may know our true state. We don’t do this for commendation as much as for conviction and correction. We want to know areas in which He wants us to change, and we want Him to reveal specific sins and sinful attitudes and habits we may be harboring that we may not even be aware of.

As we spend time with God, reading and meditating on His Word, as well as praying and seeking wisdom from Him, the light of truth begins to shine on us, revealing life changing opportunities. Do our lives – our thoughts, words, and deeds – measure up to His standards? Thankfully, we don’t have to muster up enough strength to change on our own. He equips us in every way with everything we need to become more and more Christlike.

Although it may hurt to see everything the light reveals, it is for my benefit and the changes that Christ will bring to my life will make the process worthwhile.

The Wonders of the Storm

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These little purple wildflowers were so pretty the day we saw them while driving along a scenic Virginia river road. They stood so close to the dangers of the overflowing James River right after flooding rains. So many dangers so close to them, yet they remained untouched.

Does that mean they were not affected by the rains? No, they had to endure rain and wind on end for days. Yet the elements did not destroy them. In fact, they were the better for the storm. Strong and bright and beautiful. After all, they wilt in too much sunshine.

“Do not let the floodwaters engulf me or the depths swallow me up or the pit close its mouth over me.” Psalm 69:15.

These tender, seemingly frail, little flowers are a reminder to me of those who trust in the Lord. So often God’s children are close to danger, even danger that could destroy them. They often persevere under extremely difficult circumstances. They feel the pelting rains of adversity. The winds of affliction blow over them, nearly causing them to break. The darkness overtakes them. The flood waters approach.

But it doesn’t last forever. Soon, the clouds break, and the storm moves on. The wind stops, the sun comes out, and the flood recedes. They know their God has once again rescued them.

And then they realize something wonderful. God used all the elements of that storm to benefit them – to make them stronger and more brilliant than ever. They have grown – not in spite of the storm, but because of it.

The Third Day

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There is something about the third day. The third day after tragedy. You turn a corner. Your perspective begins to change. Hope begins to settle back in your soul. Hope that maybe things may turn out better than you ever dreamed.

It’s a radical, reckless hope that dares to show up in the middle of a place that doesn’t welcome it. It doesn’t care. It shows up anyway. It breaks through the darkness like this sunrise over Lake Superior, washing the entire landscape with light.

This hope is not based upon yourself. It can’t be. If it were, it would come and go like the waves of the sea. This hope comes from the Lord, the One who made the waves of the sea.

“After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will restore us, that we may live in His presence.” Hosea 6:2.

The Lord never leaves us in our broken state. He always, always picks us up out of the dust, revives us, and restores us. Like this Lake Superior sunrise scattered the darkness of the previous night, Christ scatters the darkness of our souls and our circumstances.

Wait for the third day. After all, when the world seemed the darkest and most hopeless, Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day to conquer darkness and hopelessness forever.

Finish the Work

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In 1923, when the idea of Mount Rushmore was proposed, no one had any idea how difficult a task it would be. It was believed that it would take about five years and half a million dollars to complete this monumental task. However, it was fourteen years later and at the cost of one million dollars when the project was finally completed.

If anyone had had any idea of the cost or the time, the dream may likely have been postponed or canceled. Many, many obstacles and unexpected challenges had to be conquered, and this job required extreme caution and professionalism at every level.

“Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.” 2 Corinthians 8:11.

This verse happens to be directed to the Corinthians in response to their commitment and willingness to give. It’s one thing to be willing to give and to make a commitment to do so; it’s another thing to actually do the work or complete the task of giving.

There are times when God calls us to a task that looks exciting, and we eagerly anticipate what will come. But as the work continues, we find the cost is much greater and the time required is much more demanding than we originally thought. We may come to a crossroads. Will we continue to invest time and money into this task, this project, this calling? Or will we walk away to begin something else we probably will never complete?

Let’s commit to completing the calling God has placed on each of our hearts, and like those who completed this amazing Mount Rushmore Monument, we can leave a legacy to future generations.

The Course of My Life

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Here, at Utah’s Goosenecks State Park, the San Juan River meanders like a snake through the landscape. Back and forth it goes, making little forward progress during this stretch. The course of a river is determined by many factors, but thankfully the course of a life is determined by One.

“The course of my life is in Your power.” Psalm 31:15b.

Every facet of my life is in the hands of God – not my own and not my enemy’s. God’s power and wisdom dictate every single thing that happens to me. When my life is filled with pleasant situations and circumstances, it’s easy to understand the source of all that pleasantness is God. But that may be hard to reconcile when I am called to endure suffering.

At the same time, it can be comforting. We are never called to traverse a difficult and heartbreaking journey apart from the wisdom and appointment of Almighty God, who loves us, has blessed us with unending mercy, and who always has our best interest at heart. Although we may go through seasons of life that leave us feeling like we are helplessly swirling in a dangerous current, at the mercy of our circumstances, we can be sure that we are never a victim of chaos or cruel fate.

Instead each phase of life and every situation we face is ordained and appointed by our sovereign and merciful God, and when we trust Him and give Him glory in all things, we can live at peace, no matter what we face.